Before leaving for Spain we made a last improvised road trip in Switzerland to test the electrical installation of Dahu (our van we were talking about here). In fact, before taking the road for 5 months we wanted to make sure that the heating but also the solar panels were working, so we took advantage of 2 days where the thermometer was going down to -8°C at night to explore a new region of Switzerland: Gruyère!
Gruyere village and its castle
The village of Gruyère is a place that I (Fabienne) know relatively well. When I was a student (a long time ago… let’s say in the early 2000s) I did an internship in a company in the event department and one of my missions was to accompany foreign clients on a “mini tour of Switzerland”. I might as well explain to you that the village of Gruyère, its castle, I visited them in depth (and I don’t even want to tell you about the number of fondues and double-cream meringues I ate during this period…). And yes, fondue in the middle of summer is “a thing” when you’re accompanying foreigners.. 😉
Gruyère is a little bit the “postcard” village of French-speaking Switzerland. I admit that during my visits in the middle of summer I always found this place a little too crowded for my taste (and a little kitsch too, let’s be honest). I always liked the region, but the village itself had always left me a little bit more sceptical. This year, it’s in the middle of December and during the week that we came here and the least we can say is that my impression will have been quite different! The snow had just fallen and the village seemed straight out of a fairy tale…
The Giger Museum: dive into the world of Alien
To tell you the truth, this museum was the main reason we chose the Gruyère region for our Swiss mini road trip. One evening while talking to Benoit about the Giger museum, he told me he had never been there!
In my eyes this museum is one of the most incredible in Switzerland and it suddenly seemed capital to me that Benoit sees it! For the record, Hans Ruedi Giger is a Swiss designer, graphic designer and sculptor totally passionate about fantastic worlds. Well known in the Swiss art scene, he became known to the general public when he was chosen to create the creature of Alien and the spaceship in Ridley Scott’s mythical film released in 1979.
HR Giger does not come from the Gruyère region (he comes from Chur in the Graubünden region) but he fell in love with the area during an exhibition held in the castle. After that, he bought a house and set up his museum there in 1998. HR Giger passed away in Zurich in 2014, but his museum is of course still there and allows visitors to immerse themselves in the artist’s somewhat eccentric world.
This museum is really one of those places that won’t leave anyone indifferent… it’s strange, surprising, and downright disturbing at times! One really wonders what was going through Giger’s mind when he was making some of his works. 😉 We’re far from having “understood” everything but we clearly came out of there totally excited! Unfortunately pictures are not allowed inside, so you’ll have to go there to see what we’re talking about!
- Opening: Schedule varies according to the season. In summer it is 10am-6pm from Tuesday to Sunday and in winter it is 1pm-5pm from Tuesday to Friday and 10am-6pm on weekends.
- Price: Admission costs CHF 12.50 per adult. There is also a combination ticket for 19 CHF which includes a visit to the castle.
- Good deal: we didn’t test it because we were with the van but the region offers “Gruyère passports” including accommodation, activities, visits to the cheese factory, a meal and public transport in the region from 105 CHF per person for 1 night.. More info
The HR Giger Bar: a must-see!
If you come to the museum there is another place you can’t miss: the HR Giger Bar! Located right in front of the museum this place is absolutely exceptional!
They have the rule that photos are forbidden for people who do not get a drink … a little strange we grant you even if on busy days we imagine that this can be justified to avoid crowds forming at the entrance. (We were there during the week, in the mornings and during the covid crisis, so much so that we were the only customers and these signs made us smile). So we warn you, the coffee is not cheap and it’s basically bad (in fact it was so weird that we wondered if there had been a problem with the machine) but it doesn’t matter… the place is really worth the detour!
The tour of the lake of Montsalvens
If you read us from time to time you will surely have noticed that cultural visits are not our speciality 😉 In Gruyère, a visit to the castle and the Giger museum is a must, but clearly we didn’t want to leave the region without at least a short walk!
The snow had just fallen in abundance and we started to think about a route that could be done without snowshoes. Basically, I wanted to show Benoit the Jogne gorge (a place I had already been to many years ago and which had left me with great memories). Unfortunately, the trail is closed in winter and with the heavy snowfalls it seemed not a good idea to venture there. Instead we opted for the tour around the lake of Montsalvens.
We parked the van on the parking lot of the Charmey gondola lift (paid parking) and went down to the lake following the Jogne river. The path that goes around the lake is well marked and offers some very nice viewpoints. On the first part of the hike (up to the dam roughly) we were not the first walkers to pass in the fresh snow and so the existing tracks helped us not to get our feet too wet (yes yes, we were totally prepared for this hike and had our trail running shoes on #NotTheBestChoice ).
From the dam, things have become more difficult for us… Nobody had taken the path yet and we were the first
sinking in the snow to create the tracks. 🙂
In all, the walk is a little less than 10km with a difference in altitude of about 300m. In short, a nice little hike that can easily be done in 2 hours!
Our hiking map around the Montsalvens lake
Note: We did not follow the “official” route for the whole part. Because of the snow and our already wet feet we preferred to follow the small road at the end. The official itinerary continues on a path in the forest, bypassing the Vanil de la Monse from the north. If you come in better conditions (or with better shoes) we advise you rather to follow the official path which is surely more charming than the road 😉
Other activities to be discovered around Gruyère
We only stayed 2 days in the area but clearly there is a lot more to do! This was not our first visit and we had already done some “classics”. If this is your first visit to the area then we can also advise you:
- La maison Cailler: A magnificent museum around chocolate with a tasting at the end. 🙂 I’ve already been there many times and it’s really a very nice place (for adults and children alike). More info
- Get on top of Moléson: the highest peak of the region and therefore necessarily one of the most beautiful panorama! In winter it is a ski area but the rest of the year you can go up there either by funicular and gondola or… on foot of course! More info
- La maison du Gruyère: ah là là… how could someone come to Gruyère and not visit at least once the museum dedicated to one of the best cheeses in the world? (We chauvinistic? nooooo hardly….) Promised Gruyère “de Gruyère” has nothing to do with French Gruyère (no hard feelings). More info
That’s it for this little tour in the Gruyère region! We hope that this little winter getaway in our beloved little Switzerland has given you some ideas for your next outing! And if you have any recommendations in the region, don’t hesitate to leave us a comment. 🙂